History of the Dorman Museum

The museum was officially opened on the 1st of July 1904, by the Colonel in Chief of the Yorkshire Regiment, as the Dorman Memorial Museum. It was presented to the town by Sir Arthur Dorman as a memorial to his son George Lockwood Dorman, and others of the Yorkshire Regiment who lost their lives during the South African wars of 1899-1902.

The Dorman Museum is built of redbrick and terracotta with an ornamental copper domed tower, which has become one of Middlesbrough’s landmarks. J.Mitchell Bottomley, Son and Welford were the architects commissioned to design the purpose built museum.

Although the museum was opened in 1904 it’s history actually dates back to the late 1860’s when members of the Cleveland Literary and Philosophical Society Field Club gave various objects and specimens to create a museum at their premises on Corporation Road.
H.W.F. Bolckow, one of the founders of Middlesbrough’s iron and steel industry, was the first to contribute to the collection with the purchase of a number of birds in 1874.

Even though this collection was called a museum it was only really accessible to members of the Field Club. Items were not actually put on public display until 1890 when the growing collection was given over to the care of the Free Library Committee, who displayed the objects in the new Municipal Buildings and the Town Hall. A purpose built museum later became necessary due to Alfred Edward Pease’s offer to present and case his collection of African and Indian birds and animals in one gallery for public display. He made this gift in April 1901 and the final result was the museum dedicated by Sir Arthur Dorman.

After starting life as a natural history museum the collection has grown and become more diverse over the years. Although much of the natural history collection (including our lion!) remains on show or carefully looked after in our stores, collections of cultural objects, items of local significance, domestic items, archaeology, Linthorpe pottery and geology are now amongst the many objects that we care for and exhibit. Hence the Dorman Museum displays have changed and become more diverse, and also more concerned with preserving and presenting the history of our unique town and its people.

Arthur Dorman

Arthur Dorman